Friday, February 19, 2010

The Stiff Middle Finger Approach to Public Relations

You just have to know this is a Goldman Sachs story.

Lucas van Praag is chief spokesperson for GS, their messenger, if you will. It's a tough job, but he gets paid well, very well.

How much does a spokesperson earn for what some consider the most evil company on the planet? The information is not public, but according to the New York Observer, after Praag made partner at GS, he and his wife paid $7.85 million for an uptown townhouse with radiant-heat floors.

Is he any good? According to NYO:

In 2001, new to Goldman, he persuaded a Financial News reporter curious about an anonymous buyer of the firm’s shares to instead write about “the talents of his brilliant artist brother-in-law,” who was about to have a gallery show.
The problem is that GS has decided to present, as NYO puts it, "a continuing communications and PR policy that’s basically a stiffly extended middle finger, waved in the air for all to see."

Regardless of how charming you are, if you are tasked with waving a "stiffly extended middle finger", it may not go over well with the media you are waving the finger at.

Of course, this middle finger approach may be coming down from the top. NYO again:’s hard to imagine that he hasn’t been encouraged by Mr. Blankfein, CFO David Viniar and longtime Goldman major-PR-domo John Rogers
A negative view of GS now permeates America, even people who shouldn't know who the hell GS is know they suck. School teachers, nuns , truck drivers, prostitutes, they all know of GS and about the evil bastards they are. The PR approach has beyond question been a failure. The GS handling, for example, of a Matt Taibbi piece on GS, in Rolling Stone Magazine, has only somehow produced street cred for Taibbi on financial topics, when any Taibbi piece on finance that I have ever read contains more misunderstandings about basic finance than one would think could possibly be written by a team of writers, let alone one man. It's as though Taibbi clipped a bunch of work by various other financial writers and somehow got them all jumbled when he had to rush to the bathroom. The pieces just never got back into any logical form after the bathroom event.

But, I digress.

The continuing PR disaster at GS (as if raping the entire planet is ONLY a PR problem) is now leading to speculation that GS may have to fire the messenger, their own messenger, Praag. Not a messenger bearing bad news, mind you, but a messenger bearing good news about GS to the rest of the world (admittedly with an extended middle finger).

In December, writes NYO, Charlie Gasparino wondered aloud on the Daily Beast if Mr. van Praag might lose his job. “I think that this is such an unmitigated disaster,” another veteran Wall Street writer said last week, “that eventually it will require something public and substantive to happen.”

And so, there you have it. Only at Goldman Sachs, would the clever and charming Mr. Praag have to worry that he might be replaced by anyone who can do a good imitation of Don Rickles.

1 comment:

  1. At this point in the game the fact that Taibbi keeps calling bullshit on the workings of GS is enough for me. Yes, he lacks a basic understanding of many financial concepts, but he gets some things correct and the outrage Taibbi brings to the table is palpable and completely justified. Taibbi, of course, thinks that a lot of what GS did was the function of free markets - but he also recognizes a lot of what GS does is corporatism of the worst order. For that, I am glad he is out there doing what he is doing.